Note: This is a collection of stories and images for an eight-part series highlighting Richard Childress’ induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame class of 2017. Each of the items will be featured in Childress’ “shadow box” for one year inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.
During the 2017 season, Richard Childress Racing drivers will likely go through at least 10 firesuits throughout the 36-week NASCAR schedule. Carefully crafted and designed, firesuits of today serve a significant purpose in driver safety, but are used only for a few races each.
Times have changed since Richard Childress would use a single firesuit for an entire season, like the one he wore in 1979.
That firesuit – which now lives in his NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibit – is beaten and battered.
“I wore that firesuit pretty much all the time around the garage.” Childress said. “I wore it while we were working on the car, practice, qualifying and races. Most of the guys back then did the same because we all worked on our cars.”
It is evident that Childress worked on his own car while he was a driver and he was not afraid to get his hands dirty. At the times, RCR had only a handful of team members who traveled to the racetrack, so Childress was the driver, lead mechanic, engine builder and everything in between. Wearing multiple hats at the racetrack meant getting dirty.
Much like his other equipment, the firesuit was hardly a fashion statement. He purchased the white and red suit second-hand and had someone hand sew patches to the uniform. Sweat stains are still evident around the collar and underarms. Stitches are broken and some of the seams are slightly torn. Black marks are all over.
“Back in those days, the cars had so many holes in them all sorts of debris and rubber would get inside the car,” Childress said. “Some of the marks are probably where my seat belts were rubbing on my uniform.”
Before his Hall of Fame induction, Childress kept this firesuit folded up in his personal memorabilia collection. Among hundreds of other collectibles from over the years, his 1970s race gear is among his favorite.
“It reminds me of the old days. Working late, getting up early. The grind of the NASCAR season. It’s what I lived for.”
Other Hall of Fame Artifact Stories: